Economics PhD job market

A few tips

This page is there to help graduate students in Economics how to prepare for the job market. Input is welcome.

Preparing for the job market

Go on the job market is not a last minute initiative. You prepare for it throughout your studies. Some aspects, however, need stressing:
  1. See how other do it: go to seminars, in particular recruiting seminars. Talk to job candidates.
  2. Present often. Defending your work is very different from teaching principles.
  3. See often others present. Learn from their mistakes. Emulate good presentations.
  4. Go to conferences, even if you are not on the program. You want to comingle, meet people, get your name out, see how it is done.
  5. Work on your economic intuition, the skill that interviewers will most look for in you. This is best done with "all of the above".
  6. Write great papers.

When are you ready to go on the job market

The best person who can tell you that is your advisor. Here is what I tell my students. You should be in a situation in which it is believable that you will have defended your dissertation before you start your new job. For a dissertation comprised of three chapters, this means that by October, you must have one chapter finished and polished (your job market paper), another one well advanced (results, draft) and the third one at least as a well matured idea (you know it is feasible). Those writing recommendation letters for you should be able to give an accurate description of your work and to guarantee that you will finish on time. That means also that by the time of the interviews in January you should have first results for the third paper. There is little time, so the more advanced the third paper is, the better. A good test of whether you are ready is when you present your job market paper in a seminar or a brownbag. Do not miss this opportunity. Take as much criticism as possible, and build on it. Redo a presentation with a smaller audience (adivser, friends) before flying out.

What documents you need

  1. A job market paper This needs to be really polished. Be extra careful with abstract, introduction and conclusion.
  2. Other papers They are not required. But if you have something presentable, it does not hurt to attach them. No one will complain if they are printed two-up double-sided.
  3. A CV Put everything that is relevant to an academic career, drop what is not relevant. If it takes several pages, be it. List conference presentations, all papers, classes taught, etc. Put contact details, expected graduation date.
  4. A research statement A paragraph about the general topic of your dissertation, then the abstract of each of your papers, also for those not part of the dissertation, if any.
  5. A teaching statement Some positions require this. Say how you like to teach and what principles you adhere to.
  6. Teaching evaluations Some positions will require this.
  7. Recommendation letters Typically three, they can be sent separately. Be sure to alert letter writers early about your intentions!
  8. A cover letter Do not overdo it. Only few people look at it. If you are particularly interested in a position, this is the opportunity to signal it. Otherwise, just use standard letters to different categories of positions (university/research, university/teaching, government, private).
All this needs to be send before the deadlines specified in ads. It is your task to meet deadlines. Nobody can help you if you miss deadlines. Also meet deadlines set by the graduate program if you want assistance in your job search.

Where to apply

Everywhere you can. Before you have a job offer in hand, you cannot be choosy. How many applications should you send? This depends on the field. For Macroeconomics, if you are sending fewer than 150 applications, you are doing it wrong. The marginal cost of sending an application is low. Do not neglect any place where you could find a job. Do not just rely on ads in JOE. Consider the markets organized by the European and Canadian Economic Associactions. Register for the Illinois Skills Match when registering for the ASSA meetings (this pertains to small teaching colleges and many private or gotvernment jobs. You only upload your CV, they sift through them). Several other web based initiatives are also available. Note that some places do not advertise, as they always have openings. This is the case for some central banks and international organizations, in particular IMF and World Bank. Provide your advisor with a list of the places you apply to. Your advisor may be able to push you in some cases.


First you will, hopefully, receive calls to schedule interviews. Never turn them down (you applied for these positions, right?). The only exception: your schedule is full and the new interview does not beat any of the existing ones. You can cancel interviews that get pushed out. Keep your advisor current. A month before the interviews, you need to prepare several routines, first by writing them down, then by exercising to recite them. These routines should be:
  1. Your job market paper in 1, 2, 5, 10 minutes.
  2. Your thesis is 1, 2, 5, 10 minutes.
  3. Your future research in 3 minutes.
  4. What you are interested in teaching.
Of course, in every case, you need to be ready to expand on any possible topic when challenged. You need to exercise thoroughly your interviews. In particular, conduct mock interviews, first alone, then have friends ask questions, then have faculty ask you questions in a full dress rehearsal. Learn something about places that interview you. You do not want to ask them questions for answers are readily available on their website, for example. Find ways in which they could be particularly interested in you (research group, minor, interests of existing faculty). During interviews, be energetic, honest, forthcoming, alert, polite. Say the truth, after all you are looking for a good match. If something changed in your situation, bring updated CVs. Once back home, make sure to follow up with a thank you note by email.


Schedule them early rather than late, especially for positions you particularly like. Show yourself under your best light: be energetic during the whole stay, polite even when confronted by the department oddball, show interest. Remember, these could be your colleagues for many years. Formats of fly-outs vary greatly. In some cases, they include an exam, a trip with a real estate agent, giving a class, etc. Be prepared for everything. Keep contact thereafter: send again a thank you note, or follow-ups to particular people regarding the conversation you had, etc. Continue showing interest. Keep our advisor current.

To contact me: Phone: 6-3272, Email: